Hindu Pakistani refugee girl, whose birth coincided with India’s Parliament passing the Citizenship Act, lives in a shanty.
New Delhi: The two-and-a-half-year old Hindu Pakistani refugee girl who had shot to fame after her parents named her “Nagrikta”, as her birth coincided with the Indian Parliament passing the Citizenship Amendment Act, continues to remain in destitute conditions, despite political leaders, NGOs, social activists and eminent personalities making a beeline to her house then and promising to support her and make her future bright.
Nagrikta with her two siblings, her parents and her grandparents continue to live in the dilapidated shanties with no electricity and water in the Pakistani Refugee colony at North Delhi’s Majnu ka Tila, with a hope that someday some political leader or some “Big” people would come to their house, like they did two-and-a-half years back and help them live at least a decent life.
While speaking to The Sunday Guardian, Aarti Devi, Nagrikta’s mother, recalled how the media, politicians and even social activists who had made a beeline to come, see and bless Nagrikta have so conveniently forgotten her. “When the Citizenship Amendment Bill was passed and we named our daughter who was just born a month ago as Nagrikta, there were hundreds of people coming to see her every day. Some promised that they would take the responsibility for her education, some said they would take care of her health needs, some said her food would be taken care of by them; but just weeks after that, everyone had forgotten her. Now that it has been two-and-a-half years, I am sure no one remembers her any more. We all, including my three children, continue to live like this,” Aarti Devi told this newspaper.
The house of Nagrikta is among the 150 families who had fled from Pakistan to India some seven years back, fearing persecution by the majority community in that country. The Sunday Guardian visited the refugee camp and Nagrikta’s house on Wednesday, the day after Delhi witnessed a major storm, only to see that their house was partly destroyed due to the storm, heaps of clothes lying outside to dry as the rain water had entered their house through the thatched roof, spoiling their clothes and other valuable items.
The two-and-a-half year old shy Nagrikta was seen playing with her siblings—Kishori Nandani, younger sister, and Lokesh, her elder brother—obviously oblivion of the fact that she had then shot to fame and even the Prime Minister of India had then lauded her parents’ gesture of naming her Nagrikta, with respect to the passing of the Citizenship Amendment Bill. While addressing a public rally in Ramlila Maidan in December 2019, Prime Minister Modi had mentioned about “Nagrikta” to explain what the Citizenship Amendment Bill meant for all those who had come to India facing religious persecution.
Nagrikta’s father, Ishwar Lal, and his parents had fled from Pakistan in 2007-2008 fearing religious persecution. They along with 50 other families had come to India on a religious visa and had never returned. Since then, they had made the DDA land on the banks of river Yamuna in Majnu ka Tila as their permanent adobe. However, Nagrikta’s grandmother said that they had hoped that with the birth of Nagrikta, their worries, problems and helplessness would be gone and they would finally be getting the Citizenship of India. “We were so happy that this bill (CAA) was passed soon after the birth of our child and it literally brought hope into all of our lives that now we can call ourselves Indians and not Pakistanis anymore. But two-and-a-half years have passed, and we still do not know what the future holds for us. We still do not know whether we will ever be called Indians. But I think the Modi government is committed to granting us Indian status and we still believe that we will get it,” Nagrikta’s grandmother told this correspondent.
However, Nagrikta is an Indian citizen by birth and her birth certificate was handed over to the family in 2019, by the then Mayor of North Delhi Municipal Corporation Jai Prakash, who had personally visited the family in the refugee camp.
Asked if they had ever thought of going back to Pakistan, both Aarti Devi and Nagrikta’s grandmother said, “Never! India is our country. We belong to this land. We had fled from Pakistan to save ourselves from the horrors of our daughters and women being raped and killed. We can never go back to that country.”
Aarti Devi further said that with the CAA being passed, they are getting a lot of support from the government agencies now, like for example, she said the cops do not harass them anymore, and that they can now get their visas extended every year from the police stations.
“Although we have still not been made permanent citizens of India, the attitude of the government and their agencies towards us has changed. We have become more acceptable in society now. Earlier, we were seen as refugees, but now, that taboo has somewhat changed,” Aarti Devi told this newspaper.